The Paradox of Going Outside →
Good essay on why we need to go outside, even if it can be unpleasant sometimes.
On appreciation of nature:
Muir was not just born mindful of nature, he was fastidious throughout his life in the study of botany, geology, theology, biology, ecology, in the languages of man and God that make the whole world pulse with meaning. My mistake in Glacier was not in failing to appreciate the high flowers, the playful lives of the squirrels; it was in thinking that such an appreciation would come naturally.
On going into the wild:
In a culture pervaded by artifice, by self-awareness and advertising, the grand gesture away from it all—“Fuck it, I’m going into the wild”—is just another trope. We’ve seen that movie. In fact it was called Into the Wild and for the parties involved it was sort of a pathetic catastrophe.
This is the bind I’m in: I feel small in urban life—“tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized,” as Muir put it. I want to get away for a bit. I’m inspired by Thoreau and company to get really away. But in the very breath of my demand for the “authentic” wild, the un-guided tour, I’m cringing at how flaccid and disgracefully naive I probably sound—how much like one of Krakauer’s goons, the kind of person who will either gentrify the woods or get myself killed in them. This reaching toward the outdoors, far from clearing my head, confounds it further. This deep-seeming thing I crave may well not exist. Or worse, it does—and I’m too bound up by ego to seize it.